Book me … for owning a book outright…

April 24, 2010 § 17 Comments

Even at the work table in my “office”, books seem to litter themselves around the “work space.” Gotta love ’em.

At the Missouri Writers Guild conference last weekend, one of the speakers said (and this is blasphemy so the sqeamish among you, please cover your ears!): ” Only purchase books that you are going to read more than once.”

It was like the lights went out. The volume muted. Vision blurred. I groped for my pen and paper seated there at the round table, the grounding aspect of that particular workshop session. I tried to look normal. Mind racing, I wondered in a nanosecond how much I’ve actually spent over the years on books. (My Gran always said it wasn’t polite to count. I was never really sure what she meant, but at this moment, with her words resonating in my head, I decided she meant I didn’t have to total $$$ spent on books.)

What? I shouldn’t buy books?
OMG, even my mom never said “no.”
Neither does HM, an avid reader himself.

No one in the workshop noticed my momentary swoon and within moments, I collected myself, turning my back on yet another “should” encountered in the world of real worldness.

Own only what I’ll read more than once? How can I know in advance?
Egads, more than half the books on my shelves I’ve only read once.

I mean, I know I’m supposed to go to the library, and I do.

But I love the stories in books AND the book  itself AND the paper AND the experience of having the book on the shelves AND knowing I have time to look at it, annotate it, etc. any time, AND I love sharing them with my family and friends.
No, really, how am I to know if I’m going to read a book more than once at first approach?

Horrified, I am.

(The conference was great, though, and more to tell and share on that!)

A boxing we will go…and there’s a bit about a book here, too

April 21, 2010 § 26 Comments

Oh, the darn mirrors!  I realize they help observe “form” but egads…

Nory won an opportunity to take ten friends to a boxing class and asked me and we didn’t know what to expect other than we might be out of our comfort zones (totally) and one of my great friends came along (so I wouldn’t be the sole middle-ager) and we got there and milled around a bit, asking questions and waiting for the second trainer to arrive and then there were real training gloves to don which was very cool and immediately transformed my attitude and energy and then the music came on and our trainer began demonstrating and shouting out directions and there we were jump roping and punching bags (as pictured above) and scooting around aerobically and kicking and punching and cardio-ing and weirdly, everything started to get easier as we went along except for the fatigue part where you think your arms will fall off and then we were “on the floor” doing crunches and crazy planks on our sides and then we were back up to punch and kick and starting to get the hang of it even though turning to rubber at the same time and glad I didn’t have to do 15 rounds in a ring which I still can’t imagine, and then we were up and down and up and down with tips and encouragement along the way and then suddenly, we were done.

Forty-five minutes went like this (insert snapping of fingers) and then there we were all pathetically drenched in sweat and no one minded and no one cared about their hair and everyone felt lighter, relaxed, and very worked out.
So thank you Nory for opening another door!

Denouement: We’re signing up for class once a week. “Once a week will change your life,” said the trainer. 

Me, Nory and friends, post-workout!

The Pugilist at Rest
by Thom Jones has been on my shelf for years. I read it as soon as  I purchased it, read it all the way through, searching for why he was considered a prize winning story-ist (he won an O Henry for his title short story). I don’t think I “got it” at the time. I think I need to go back and read him now. Though there was a lot of pain as well as boxing and also the Viet Nam war in his stories, I am curious again about his style and craft and overall what caught Updike’s eye when he included Jones in a Best Short Stories anthology.

Dogeared … and please don’t tell Miss Henry …

April 18, 2010 § 12 Comments

In second grade, I ended up in Miss Henry’s class. It could have gone quite another way. We were a big class and split into two. The other teacher was new, a complete unknown. We would have dared our fate with her, nonetheless.

Miss Henry had a serious rep, though not a particularly bad one. Still, I often got caught in the crossfire of her engineer type teaching methods and my own blithe spirit. Because I was among the 20 of us who ended up in her classroom and then once again, suffered the luck of the her draw in fourth grade as well.

Miss Henry, a lank hipless white-haired woman, was dedicated to all things traditional and correct. Other than stuffing her handkerchief into the short sleeves of her dresses after honking or sneezing into them, she was the rigid epitome of correctness. And one of the things that she adamantly preached against was any sort of abuse against books. (She had me there – I already couldn’t have agreed more.) 

She inspected our returned classroom library books with the ferocity and astuteness of a warden. No writing in books, no bent or missing pages, no inexplicable

Never read with a pen or pencil in your hand, I learned. You wouldn’t want to make any stray mark of any sort. Never eat or drink while reading. You wouldn’t want to suddenly spray the page or leave a cup ring if using your drink to hold the book open while taking notes. Never this, never that. Reading was awash in “take cares” and “don’ts.”  And never dog ear! She would sniff it out, that poor little damaged page, and reproach the page bender in front of the class.

Well her dictates have all worked very well and good over the years, resonating at odd moments.
But I have turned a page, so to speak….and literally.

While reading my writing books of late, I have been committing the Miss Henry number one sin: dogearing.

Let me explain that I see it as a sign of affection with my softcover books. I refer to my books about writing. The ones so often scoffed by others. (really? and how do you account for the piles of best-selling self help books that fly out the bookstore shelves?)

Books about writing are reference books. Yes, that’s it. I carry them around, trying to assimilate whatever wisdom between the covers and am often caught out without pen or pencil to mark  a special spot, a line, a paragraph, a reference. 

And that is why, I have, in fact, derived a simple “dogear” system.

The disclaimer: First let me mention that turning down the corner of a page, the absolute faux pas that its known to be, is not something I do lightly. And it’s not something I do to anyone else’s books but my own. Those that live here, especially on my “office” bookshelves. Further, when I’m finished with the book, I straighten out its little bends on every page, and press it out.

The single dogear     This is the simple small folding down of a page to indicate something of note was here. Maybe a word, maybe several sentences. Somehow, the dogear was inspired and later, after finishing the book, every dogeared page is re-read in search of the page-bend’s inspiration to begin with and then it is duly noted in my writing exercise book.

 The double dogear   This occurs if there is a dogear already on page 21, but something occurs on (its backside) page 22 that is of note. What to do? Maintain the first dogear, then making a bigger fold on the page (Miss Henry is in an apoplectic rage now), bend it back the other way. (Surely I should be tearing pieces off my slip like little pieces of paper and using those before falling prey to the sloppy insidious ways of a dogearing reader! Miss Henry might say. But we don’t wear slips anymore; the dress itself has fallen back to date night and church Sunday as it is, Miss Henry, so shredding my non-existent petticoat, is, as you see, impossible.)

The bookmark dogear   This appears like any dogear but it is the last dogear in the book as it progresses, thus marking the spot where this reader left off.  Could it also mean that there is something remarkable on the page as well as being the last page read so far? Hmmm…good point. Yes, but I typically review that page anyway to see what was going on when I last picked up the book.

Sure, ban me from libraries across the country and from having any books lent to me but truly I only dogear my books. I’m sorry; it releases somthing, it expands my experience, it makes me love my books more and drives a certain curiosity about going back to look at those dogeared pages in particular.

Alright, fine, I did do it once to a novel. It was a softcover cover copy of  The God of Small Things by Roy. I thought I was going to keep it. And thus claimed it through dogearing.
But it wasn’t to be so.

I couldn’t finish the book. I don’t know why. I would read two pages, dogear my spot, put it down. At the next reading, I might progress five pages, dogear, put it down. This went on for a good third of the book.

A friend was going on vacation. She wanted something to read. Yes, she would give Roy’s book a try. I smoothed the pages neatly, nearly ironing them, before giving the book to her. I was truly letting it go. This also felt good because I was done wrestling with it. At least for now.

Said friend, (she still is a very good and close friend) later confessed she couldn’t finish it either. That she had, in fact, stopped reading at the same intervals that I had. She knew by the faint trace of my dogears. 
Funny the things that can seal a friendship.


April 16, 2010 § 5 Comments

Three days of corporate meetings and two freelance writing deadlines.

A few things learned:
It’s true that if you sleep propped up, it can reduce or help avoid puffy eyes.
You can get up early every morning with the birds (around 5:00) but they will be singing and likely, you will not.
Finding a good title for a PowerPoint presentation can be as difficult as finding a title for a magazine article.

Snaps (#1) …

April 11, 2010 § 12 Comments


(two different realities, two different “siren” songs)

New habit…and a bit on books about writing.

April 7, 2010 § 9 Comments

The experiment worked. I could tie its success to spiritual reasons but would likely lose you as a reader if I did so. Let’s just say that 40 days of daily writing “practice” can engender writing as a habit. It has. The “dailies” continue.

In fact, writing exercise has become something that I now look forward to. Crave. Need. Doesn’t matter if I do it for a half hour or half day or (let’s exaggerate here) half a minute. It is to the point that writing practice, writing exercise, feels good. And certain doors (certainly in my memory) bang open each time I sit down to write. (Mind you, this is writing exercise, not writing a novel or anything.)

EARLY WARNING: This blog entry will natter on about a book on writing that included writing exercises. Some of you are yawning already and I get that, it’s ok.

My recent personal challenge was to read my way through some books about writing. Here then, is one of the ones I have finished, and so far, have three notebooks full (on one side of each page) with writing exercises and writing lists. (the other side of the page is for gluing things like ticket stub, cartoons, ideas that I like but have no idea what to do with otherwise. Actually, what I’ve come up with is “scrap writing.”

I will say that the writing comes much more easily as a result of this daily practice. The writing is not  better; it just comes more easily. The words and thoughts and images and memories and silly or simple or silent plots just spill into the exercise book. No required looking back at what was written, no editing, no asking someone to read. It’s an exercise book, for pete’s sake.

And so, after reading/working my way through PEN ON FIRE (reviewed several blog entries ago), I next picked up POEMCRAZY. 
It seems to be a thin volume, maybe not taken too seriously in fact, but it’s doable. Once you slow down to tackle (once again, only some of) the exercises, the book takes much longer to get through, of course. You have to be true. If you attempt an exercise, you gotta take it to its max, not cheat the clock or any tangents the subject matter might inspire. You have to be “there.” You have to use pen and paper. Well, you don’t have to, but it works better.

I liked POEMCRAZY.  For several reasons, not the least of which is that poetry should infuse prose, I think. And author Wooldridge pulls out several poetical stops to inspire the writer. Note however that I am prone to elevate Poets to a certain literary pedestal and love them especially if I have even a glimmer of what they’re talking about.

I like the cover. (There we go, leaping!)

POEMCRAZY is a nice little tome, after all, and worth a read. Some of it is so obvious but then, that’s part of the point, dealing with the obvious and seeing it, making it fresh, giving stale vocabulary the boot, playing with structure, making up words. (Probably one of the best exercises in there.) 

Ms Wooldridge is sincere, light hearted yet serious about her work and she does a lot of poetry workshops with children. You have to appreciate that, at least. You get glimpses of her home, her husband and children, her yard, her trees, her walkways and the sounds and slant of light in California. (Thank you, Emily D, for the idea/phrase ” a certain slant of light.”)

Maybe worth having, at least for its size. I kept it in my purse (I carry a big purse, in fact it’s a bag, not a purse.)  The chapters are short, the exercises now and then concrete. Having written your way through it, and gleefully skipping some of the stuff she asks you to do (I begged off of labeling everything in the room with cutesy word combination “tickets”), you will feel accomplished, even if you don’t look back at what you did.


April 4, 2010 § 20 Comments

There are so many ways to describe the joy that comes with Easter.
None of the following pictures will capture the joys, exactly but they do offer hints. 

Good Friday … Great Friday Pt 2 (deux)

April 2, 2010 § 8 Comments

We had an unscheduled schedule. Down to The Hill for lunch at Zia’s. (no pictures here, too dark and didn’t want to startle anyone by using a flash. Sure there was outdoor dining, but somehow, sitting down to eggplant parmigiana and baked mastacioli (etc) didn’t go with outdoors and umbrellas. We stayed indoors for the linen and silverware. And crazyass conversation on religion, yup, there on The Hill, in front of God and everyone, we discussed (softly) religion with some fervor but more a discovery thing on what and how each of us interpreted the Bible and this on Easter! Honestly, if we didn’t have kids, we’d have to rent them. They’re so fresh and have an ability to shred complacency. And they do want to talk, to discuss things.)

From there, we wandered up the street for gelato.

Snarl and Nory consider gelato. Are they hungry enough? Yes!

If you want to be anonymous, don’t take a picture of a reflective surface!

Then we crossed the street to St. Ambrose. It’s a mini-cathedral. It had a makeover several years ago. Unsure whether or not a service would be in process, we went in to light candles. The sanctuary was empty, waiting.

And then after some time on the front steps of the church which happens to share a four cornered intersection with some happening places (food, jewelry, new loft/condos and Amighetti’s bakery), we walked to the Missouri Baking Co., a traditional stop on Good Friday, thinking ahead about how good sweets will be on Easter Sunday.

This was the only “uncrowded” spot to photograph!

And from there a leisurely walk back to our car and a search for a cigar shop – The Hill Cigar Co.  HM and Nory were sure there was one in the neighborhood somewhere and sure enough, we found.

The bookstore is to a bookaholic as a cigar store is to a cigar aficionado – there were several out front on the patio, smoking and schmoozing.

HM and his band are getting together tomorrow for a cigar and some conversation…and this prompted some serious yard, porch and patio clean up when we got home with all hands on deck, sweating, sweeping, mowing and moving things around. The glory of getting in touch with the land upon which one lives!

Good Friday rocks on…with an incredible sweetness and its layers of tradition.

Good Friday … Great Friday … Pt 1

April 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

How sweetly luxurious to have this day “off.” No alarms either. Which means I wake up ealier than ever. The birds assisted on that one. Waking to birdsong is a major event after a silent grey winter.

Though I couldn’t capture them on film because they are dun-colored and green and grey and do that blend thing so well, I will try to capture a wee bit of what I heard.

The Robins were arguing loudly screech-chirping in the holly trees outside our bedroom window, which was open.  I didn’t mind at all. They worked things out after a great deal of flapping and hurling themselves around in the branches.

Dit! dit! dit! dit! dit! dit! dit! dit!  That was the delirious bird that sounds like my alarm clock. It’s funny to hear him, especially on a day when I don’t have to get up. Maybe my clock is supposed to imitate that bird but don’t ask me about that on a work morning. There is nothing natural about my batter-operated, blue-blinking alarm clock, small enough to pitch out the window should I so desire.

Zip zooey zip zooey zip zooey.  Indeed this bird, whichever one he or she is, would likely be embarrassed to hear me describe his song that way and would refer me to Audubon for the correct spelling to imitate his pround notes. 

Now imagine a whistle done first on a high C, for four beats,  then on A, just below it,for only two beats . In groups of three. Again, I don’t see the songster.  We have all kinds of trees and bushes on our property; it’s hard to narrow it from my window view and know precisely where to look to see this merry morning bird.

 They are all so clever at being dun-colored when they need to be.
Consider the mighty cardinal who cleverly sits high in the branches to sing so that when you look up, he is backlit by the sun and you cannot see his scarlet costume. You must recognize his silhouette (or song).

The bonnie robin, unworried and busy eating in the front yard. photo taken last spring. Need to start carrying the camera around again!

In the backyard bamboo, there were all kinds of waking up sounds, some scuffling of wings. I think the Canards (ducks) are back and they, along with some shiny starlings and then the tiny birds (wrens and sparrows) wants to live in the green dusk and lushness of the bamboo and are constantly calling out their little territories there. 

I’m sure I heard some young cheep-cheeping.

I couldn’t sleep while all such song went on outside the windows and so the day burst wide open for all kinds of celebration, from the spiritual to the poetical to the savoring the greening of the outdoors.

How many candles does it take….

March 30, 2010 § 3 Comments

If you use candles to light your way, it might take a lot of them.

Candless have a way of bringing everyone into the same room, though. It’s nice to group them and see the room in all its depths and shawdow.  

Candles engender conversation.  With everyone in one room, and not staring at a TV or a handheld tech toy, everyone soon finds many things to say. It makes magic. 

Candles soften and compliment. They allow the true self to shine through.  You can be in the moment. The distractions  cease.

Candles make it quiet. You can hear better. .. the house is quieter with all the electricity off.

Mmmmm….looking forward to going  from Earth Hour to Earth Hours.
It’s not gonna be easy, but…

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